IT and ancient lore, how will they get on?


Ancient traditions and cutting-edge IT are finding a way of living alongside each-other in Alice Springs – or are set to clash, as the town’s senior Aboriginal custodian sees it.
The advent of National Broadband Network has sparked the most comprehensive survey of sacred sites in the town, more than 600 of them.
Ben Scambary, CEO of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) says “the NBN project has allowed us to consolidate our records” and to find new sites.
p2272-Peckham-StuartBut senior custodian Doris Stuart (at right, with her sister Elaine Peckham, photo from our archive), when asked for a comment, said: “Everything is being done under white man’s law. They are my family, the sites in this town, I have said it over and over again.”
She says she has no faith in the AAPA which has no place for custodians: People two generations her junior are making decisions “for money and a feed. It’s not how we used to consult.
“That’s the way it’s being run now. Who passed that one? We can’t say.
“For a long time we protected sites by not speaking about them, directing people away from them.”
Ms Stuart says she has not been to an AAPA meeting since early this year.
Dr Scambary says: “A lot of these places we knew about before but some of the data was in need of update to reflect modern mapping technology, and some new sites were documented.”
The locations of sacred sites, to protect them from vandalism, were usually not disclosed unless there was a development planned for the land – on a need-to-know basis.
We asked Dr Scambary whether the locations of all the sites that are now documented are going to be released to the general public, or are they going to be treated as confidential?
“We do provide information about the location of sacred sites [but] we don’t disclose their inside stories which are really the precious things for Aboriginal custodians,” he says.
Given that all the sites have now been surveyed, will it now be cheaper for developers of land to get clearances?
p2298-Ben-Scambary-2Dr Scambary (at right) says the work done for NBN “will undoubtedly benefit future developments in the town in terms of providing a good record of where these places are.”
At a lesser cost?
“Most likely,” he says.
Ms Stuart says: “We have to live with sites that are damaged. Are we supposed to bow down to that? Our knowledge is being handed on through the spoken word, song and dance.
“Where we held ceremonies is someone’s back yard now, or the golf course or the casino.”
Meanwhile NBN’s SA & NT Corporate Affairs manager, Jill Bottrall, formerly a journalist in Alice Springs, says the roll out of a fixed line, fibre-to-the-node technology is expected to take about five months to complete by contractors, SA Power Networks.
It will provide high speed broadband access to about 9200 homes and businesses in Alice Springs, principally on the northern side of the Gap.
Most premises on the southern side will receive their broadband via the Sky Muster satellite service, she says.
The fibre to the node system will be capable of 50MB/second download and 12MB/s upload, although most consumers will probably settle for less.
The satellite service will provide 25MB/s down and 5MB/s up.
With the current ADSL and WiFi systems “you’d be lucky to get 8MB/s download,” says Ms Bottrall.
The satellite service will be up and running in Alice Springs by the second quarter next year.
Once both fibre-to-the-node and the satellite services are operational, retailers can make arrangements with consumers.
PHOTO at top: Earthworks for NBN cables to go under ground in Alice Springs.


  1. OMG! Has anyone checked the roadmap? I mean really checked it? What if, and I can feel the hairs on my neck stand straight up just thinking about it, what if the trenching undermines the Stuart statue?

  2. How privileged Alice Springs is to have such thoughtful and committed Senior Custodians in Aunty Doris Stuart and Aunty Elaine Peckham.

  3. It seems unlikely new infrastructure will take significantly different paths to existing underground services – a cynical person might see this as a great opportunity to ride publicity on the back of “no real story at all” – except the continuing story of the validity of the sites in the first instance.


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